LEE COUNTY — Who hasn’t thought about the RV life at one time or another? Most of us have imagined selling everything and hitting the road, seeing the sights at our own pace and on our own schedule. Others just dream of an all-in-one traveling second home as they visit points of interest while still maintaining their permanent homes.  

Camping World’s new store in Salem at 3141 Lee Road 179 (just off Highway 280) is located where Ashley Outdoors was before being acquired by Camping World at the end of 2023. 

The Salem location, which sits on 26 acres and has more than 400 campers on the lot, opened its doors for business on Jan. 5. It currently employs about 30 people in positions including sales, receptionists, office workers, lot porters, detailers and technicians, with plans to add more staff as the company grows. 

The RV retailer plans to have an official grand opening around the end of March or beginning of April, after completion of the second phase of construction. The massive U.S. flag that all Camping Worlds are known for is already flying high at the new Salem store and can be easily seen as you approach the property from either direction.

The store is open seven days a week, Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. CST. 

Manager Dan Eudis said the company aims to show its customers how easy, affordable and convenient the RV life can be. 

“At Camping World, we sell fun and memories,” he said. “That’s what’s great about the RV business. When you are traveling with your family and you are camping with your family, you are never going to forget those memories.” 

Eudis said his Salem location is the first of 15 new Camping World locations to open during the first quarter of this year, bringing the total number nationwide to over 210 dealerships with plans to have 320 locations over the next five years. 

Recreational vehicles (RVs) range in size from 22 feet up to 34 feet. The smallest camping experience starts with 14-foot pop up campers that can easily be towed. 

At Camping World, every purchase comes with a free three-year elite membership with Good Sam. Good Sam includes services such as travel assist, free towing for your whole family and their vehicles, along with savings on 2,000 Good Sam affiliated campgrounds across the country. “There’s just so much benefit to that (Good Sam membership) that nobody else can give anybody,” said Eudis.

“Our sales associates are great. They take people around, they kind of sit down and figure out what they (customers) want to use it for and then we can kind of guide them into the camper that will fit their needs,” he said. “There are benefits to both pulling and driving your camper. Some people don’t want to pull a trailer around. They just want a motor home and they want to travel the country and drive and live in the same vehicle. We sell fun and we sell the experience more than anything. Memories.”

Eudis said Camping World offers a complete RV experience.

“When a customer comes in, they can literally leave here with their camper, all the supplies they need to go camping, finance it and have insurance when they leave that day. So, we are a one-stop shop,” he said. “Customers can add all of the options they need to their RVs including washer/dryer combos and propane stoves. Special order options are available to order.”

Camping World sells about 20 different brands from reputable manufacturers with different price points, and most of the offered brands are built in Indiana and all are American-made, Eudis said. The Salem dealer is also one of only two Camping World locations that carries Grand Design, a more rare and sought-after brand from a newer company. 

“Because we carry so many brands, we have access to getting many items quickly from other stores if we don’t have what someone is looking for in stock,” Eudis said.

When asked how Camping World selected Salem as the location for one of their dealerships, Eudis responded that the location is “kind of in-between everything.”

“It seems like they’ve (Camping World) been putting stores in places where travellers go and highways that get them there,” he explained. “We’re going to have a full-service center here. We’re going to have a full retail store coming in the next 60 days or so and a full parts department. We do have limited parts right now. This is just a huge area for campers travelling through and with all the campgrounds around.”

Camping World was founded in 1966 and is the world’s largest recreational vehicle dealer. It is a publicly traded company. Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis said the new dealership in Salem is part of the company’s growth plan.

“This acquisition continues our growth strategy by providing additional service and product excellence to our growing customer base in the Southeast,” Lemonis said. “Ashley Outdoors has been highly respected in Alabama and Georgia for many years, with their people-minded focus, which includes their associates and customers. We look at this acquisition as a unique opportunity to rapidly increase our presence in this market while continuing a strong culture of serving customers top selection and service.”